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Ex-Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall handed hotel room key to criminal who took part in murder of David Byrne, court hears

  • Court hears Jonathan Dowdall is willing to be a witness in the upcoming trial of Gerard 'The Monk' Hutch
  • Court told that following his arrest, Dowdall indicated he was willing to make a statement about what happened at the Regency
  • He is now being assessed for the Witness Protection Programme
  • Dowdall's barrister says his client’s life and his family's lives are now ‘effectively over’


Jonathan Dowdall

Jonathan Dowdall

Jonathan Dowdall

Jonathan Dowdall (44) was involved in delivering keys after his father Patrick Dowdall (65) booked a room at Dublin's Regency Hotel the day before David Byrne was shot dead by armed raiders.

Their lawyers told a sentence hearing today that the pair had not been aware how the room was to be used, Patrick Dowdall made a "catastrophic error of judgement" and his son was the "author of his own misfortune".

The father and son were brought before Special Criminal Court amid heightened security this morning after entering guilty pleas last week to facilitating the 2016 Regency raid.

The court has also heard Jonathan Dowdall will now be available to act as a witness for the prosecution in the forthcoming trial of Gerard "The Monk" Hutch and two other men charged over the Regency shooting.

After evidence was heard by the three-judge court, the Dowdalls’ sentencing was adjourned for two weeks.

The court heard Jonathan Dowdall is being assessed for the witness protection programme after giving a statement to gardaí that implicates another or others in the murder of David Byrne (34), who was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in 2016 as part of the Hutch/Kinahan gang feud.

Detective Sergeant Patrick O'Toole confirmed that following his arrest in relation to the Byrne murder, Dowdall said he wanted to speak to someone about the witness protection programme and indicated he was willing to make a statement as to his knowledge of what happened at the Regency.

Dowdall and his family are now in protective garda custody, which has been a "significant shock", his barrister Michael O'Higgins SC said.

The court heard an assessment carried out by gardaí suggested a “severe” risk to Dowdall and members of his family, and Mr O'Higgins said it was "like taking your life and standing it on its head."

Det Sgt O'Toole agreed with Mr O'Higgins that the decision to give a statement to gardaí has placed a "very heavy burden" on Dowdall and his family.

He further agreed that while Dowdall has known the Hutch family since he was a teenager and occasionally borrowed money from them, he is not a member of any criminal organisation. The detective added that Dowdall did not benefit from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

He said that Jonathan Dowdall gave a "sincere and genuine" statement to gardaí.

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Mr O'Higgins told the court that Dowdall's life and his family's lives were now "effectively over" as he would have to spend his life in exile, "looking over his shoulder". 

The father and son, from Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin, both pleaded guilty to facilitating the February 5, 2016, murder of Mr Byrne by making a room at the hotel available for a criminal organisation or its members the day before the attack.

David Byrne was shot dead in the lobby when armed, masked men disguised as garda ERU members stormed the building and opened fire during a boxing weigh-in event.

Mr Byrne, a Crumlin father of two and Kinahan gang member, died when he was shot six times.

His murder led to an escalation of the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

Jonathan Dowdall had originally been charged with the murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge last week.

Before their guilty pleas, the Dowdalls had been due to stand trial this afternoon alongside three other men.

Gerard “The Monk” Hutch (58), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, is charged with murdering David Byrne.

Paul Murphy (59), of Cabra Road, and Jason Bonney (50), of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, are accused of facilitating the murder by providing access to vehicles to the criminal organisation that carried it out, on February 5, 2016.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane brought Det Sgt O'Toole through his evidence.

The court heard a weigh-in was taking place at the Regency on the afternoon of February 5, 2016, in advance of a boxing event billed as the “clash of the clans” due to be held the following day.

The event at the Regency, associated with boxing promoters Frank Warren and MGM, was widely publicised and the attendance of people associated with a particular gym would have been anticipated.

Boxers, trainers, members of the public and families with children were present.

The weigh-in was taking place at around 2pm in the hotel’s Regency Suite, which had a raised stage.

A large group of people including boxers, trainers, managers, members of the public and families with children were present.

A silver van parked outside and a man wearing a flat cap and a man wearing a wig emerged and walked toward the hotel.

The two entered through the laundry entrance, where they encountered staff before proceeding to the Regency suite, where the weigh-in was in progress.

This pair were armed with handguns and a number of shots were discharged, causing panic, Mr Gillane said.

CCTV showed the man in the flat cap and the man in the wig moving down the corridor, giving chase to people who were running away toward the exits.

The silver van pulled up in front of the hotel and three individuals armed with assault rifles and dressed as gardaí in “tactical-style clothing” emerged and went in the front entrance.

This caused confusion as some people thought they were gardaí, but they discharged their firearms immediately on entering the hotel.

This escalated the panic and people ran toward the reception area.

It was clear that “particular people were being looked for” by the attackers and a search was being conducted, Det Sgt O’Toole said.

David Byrne was seen on CCTV running towards reception where he encountered the men in tactical gear.

He was immediately shot by a man described as “Tactical No 1”, then shot again by “Tactical No 2” while he lay injured on the floor.

He had been able to crawl toward the desk, where a man was taking cover on the other side.

Tactical No 2 jumped the desk and engaged with this man but did not fire, then jumped back onto the counter and discharged further rounds into Mr Byrne’s head and body.

Mr Byrne died from six gunshot wounds to his head, face, abdomen, hands and thighs.

Meanwhile, the men in the flat cap and wig had left the hotel, done a “loop” and re-entered.

It was clear all five were acting together and they returned to the van, where a driver had remained.

The van was found burned out at Charlemont estate, with ammunition found to have been discharged from AK-47 rifles on the ground.

The attackers escaped.

Mr Byrne’s “execution-style killing” combined with the sophistication and significant level of planning spoke to the involvement of an organised, resourced group rather than a random attack.

Gardaí had knowledge of the “violent and murderous Kinaham-Hutch feud” and the activities and structures of the Hutch organised crime gang, which featured strong intergenerational family bonds.

The hotel manifest showed the room had been reserved in the name of Patrick Dowdall with his phone number and a family member’s credit card.

When gardaí contacted the number, Patrick Dowdall confirmed he had booked the room.

CCTV footage on February 4 showed him entering the hotel at 7.20pm, paying for the room in cash and filling out the registration details before getting two key cards.

He was seen going to the room and leaving it minutes later.

A person not before the court had made the request of the Dowdalls to book the room and Jonathan Dowdall had driven his father to the hotel.

They drove to another location in Dublin with a view to handing the key cards over, the court heard.

The father and son met a member of a criminal group and “the keys were handed to him,” Det Sgt O’Toole said.

Around an hour later, the man with the flat cap, Kevin Murray, who has since died, arrived at the hotel and proceeded straight to the booked room.

On CCTV, he clearly had a key card and entered.

At around 10am the next morning, February 5, he was seen exiting the hotel carrying a heavy holdall bag, and leaving in a taxi to another location where he became an operable part of the attack team.

On a later date, Jonathan Dowdall met the person to whom the keys had been given and travelled to Northern Ireland.

Their vehicle had been subject of a surveillance operation and their conversation was recorded.

The Dowdalls had both been convicted of falsely imprisoning and threatening to kill a man at Jonathan Dowdall’s home in 2015.

They both served prison sentences for those offences and were released in April this year.

Mr O’Higgins SC said his client, Jonathan Dowdall, a father of four, was heavily vested in the north inner city community he was from and had had a successful electrical services company.

He had known the Hutch family since he was a teenager, his mother was a third-generation market trader who lived next door to Gerard Hutch.

There had been “significant interaction” between the families, including between Jonathan Dowdall and Patrick Hutch through boxing clubs.

Jonathan Dowdall had at one point borrowed €20,000 from the Hutch family and this and other loans meant he was “somewhat compromised,” Mr O’Higgins said.

There were times when members of the Hutch family wanted to purchase things online and the Dowdalls would do this with their credit cards.

Kevin Murray had known paramilitary connections and was “very visible” while in the hotel, Mr O'Higgins said.

Det Sgt O’Toole agreed with Mr O’Higgins there was “one theory” that his presence was to “misdirect” the investigation to the North and that Jonathan Dowdall was “used in that regard”.

Jonathan Dowdall “did not have knowledge of the purpose for which the room was to be used,” Mr O’Higgins said.

If he had that knowledge “nobody would book a hotel room in that manner.”

The witness protection programme involved resettlement abroad, a new identity and the net effect would be never returning to Ireland except in “limited, covert and clandestine circumstances”.

Mr O’Higgins asked the court to take account of the “material assistance” Jonathan Dowdall was providing the investigation with.

John Bowman, for Patrick Dowdall, said his client was a “decent, hardworking man” suffering from depression and physical ailments.

When contacted by the gardaí about booking the room, he admitted it was him.

There was a history of members of the Dowdall family facilitating requests to book events for personal family friends, Mr Bowman said.

There was a phone call about the Regency booking from a person not before the court and what Patrick Dowdall did was a “catastrophic error of judgment,” Mr Bowman said.

The accused had found his recent incarceration “particularly difficult.”

Neither accused was a member of a criminal organisation and did not benefit from the offences, their lawyers said.

Both lawyers asked the court to consider suspended sentences.

The accused sat alongside each other in the dock during the hearing, while David Byrne's mother Sadie sat in the public gallery watching the proceedings.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, with judges Martin Nolan and James Faughnan, adjourned the case, saying sentence would be passed in two weeks.

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